In North Carolina the court order that officially terminates a marriage is known as an “absolute divorce”. Do not confuse an absolute divorce with proceedings for child custody, child support, or alimony. In North Carolina you can be granted an absolute divorce even if those other matters have not yet been resolved; however, it is important to understand which of those related claims must at least have been filed prior to your absolute divorce being granted. A divorce lawyer can provide a detailed explanation of the divorce process and any related claims involved in your particular case. Below are three steps you should take when you are considering a divorce.
Protect Your Financial Interests
The best way to protect your financial interests is to have a clear understanding of what assets and debts exist. If your spouse controls the family finances you may need to “investigate” your marital estate. Do you know how many bank accounts exist? Do you know all bank account numbers? Do you know how many deferred compensation or retirement accounts exist? How much monthly income would it take for you to live separately from your spouse? These questions are among the crucial items for thought when preparing for the overall divorce process.
Grounds for Divorce
North Carolina is a no-fault divorce state, which means that you are not required to prove marital fault in order to file the action. In North Carolina a divorce may be granted upon a showing of one year’s continuous separation. There are other grounds for a divorce but the requisite one year of separation is by far the most common.
Some cases require more in depth discussion of the impact marital fault plays on other issues like post separation support and alimony. In those cases it may need to be determined if a judicial separation, known as a divorce from bed and board, should be filed. This fault based claim may be based upon such grounds as:
- excessive alcohol consumption or drug abuse;
- personal indignities making life intolerable; and
- turning one spouse out of doors.
While this claim does not terminate the marriage, it may be useful in establishing fault for related marital issues. Discussing the option of this claim with a divorce attorney will clarify whether it is among the options beneficial for your case.
Assemble a Team of Experts
While the absolute divorce severs the marriage, you may face property division, child custody, child support, alimony, and other related issues. Although you may desire that your divorce process go smoothly, you can never predict how your spouse will react when the separation process begins. Do not be caught without the proper guidance in the event the process turns ugly. Discuss with a divorce attorney whether your case may require any experts to assist in developing your strongest case. Among the types of experts to discuss with your lawyer are the following:
- financial advisor;
- child custody evaluation expert;
- forensic accountant;
- vocational expert; and
Each of the experts mentioned above can help you in different ways. For example a vocational expert can determine the employability of a non-working spouse, which might affect alimony. If you and your spouse cannot agree on a custody schedule, then an expert may provide a written report that sets out a recommendation for a custody schedule.
Therefore, while the absolute divorce itself is a simple severing of the marriage bond there are related marital issues that need to be discussed and worked through. Understanding your rights, obligations and options at the beginning is the best way to protect your interests. Contact the attorneys at Williams Law Group in Cary at 919-773-1440 to set up a consultation with a specialist in family law.